Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Unconvincing lies

In parliament today, Paula Bennett was questioned pretty intensively about her clumsy smear of Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis. Her answers were less than convincing:

  • Bennett claimed to be ignorant of the smear until asked about it by journalists on Tuesday afternoon. But her face in that interview tells a completely different story: she's lying, and wasn't expecting to be asked about it. Incidentally, this was an answer to a primary question, so any evidence that she knew gets her for contempt of Parliament.
  • Bennett briefed her political staff about the investigation of Dennis. She refused to say why she did that, but there's no reason at all unless it was for the purposes of smearing him.
  • The staffer who did the actual leak offered to resign. Bennett refused to accept their resignation as she was assured that "it was not the intention for it to be a smear campaign against Mr Dennis or the marae". Which invites the obvious question: if it wasn't supposed to be a smear, why was it revealed?
  • Bennett, who has a past history of utter disregard for privacy of her critics, is suddenly very protective of the privacy of her staff, refusing to confirm or deny that the leaker was the person who accompanied her to a meeting with Dennis. By doing so, she made it clear that there will be no accountability whatsoever for this action.
These are unconvincing lies, and the overwhelming message is that Bennett ordered it, or at least tacitly approved it. And that is well below the standards we expect from government Ministers (or decent human beings). Lianne Dalziel was sacked for this sort of bullying, as was Judith Collins. And Paula Bennett must pay the same price.